Sounds a lot like Gov. Gibbons. Hopefully Sandoval won’t make all the same mistakes, but he is off to a bad start.
There are several options to raise money for education in Nevada but it requires creative thinking, not just business as usual. Here are just a few ideas:
Legalize marijuana: People would flock to Nevada if pot were legal. Not only would we get tourist dollars but we would get tax revenues from the sale just as we do with alcohol. And pot is a lot less injurious than alcohol. Plus we would save all the enforcement costs associated with arresting someone for smoking a joint.
Repeal Nevada’s marriage act: The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is under attack because it is blatantly discriminatory and so is Nevada’s law. We were the divorce capital of the country and we have the opportunity to be the gay marriage capital. People would flock here for quickie marriages just as they did for quickie divorces. The person someone marries is their own business and won’t negatively affect any other married couple. If we really wanted to protect marriage, we would not make it so easy to get divorced or so easy to get married.
Start a state bank: North Dakota did this years ago and they were able to weather the banking crisis with little impact. A state-owned bank could provide low-interest loans to local businesses and all the revenue would go to the state. It would force other banks to be competitive instead of letting them gouge us and then turn to the federal government for a bailout.
Mandate solar panels for homes: This has been done successfully in Germany (where the sun rarely shines). You require all homes to be fitted with solar panels at a reduced rate because the energy they produce is paid for by the utility companies. The cost to the homeowner is minimal and there is no distribution cost for the energy. It creates jobs in manufacturing, installation and maintenance. It is working great for Germany, which is now the largest user of solar energy of any country.
Increase taxes on luxury items: If you can afford to buy a car for $60,000 then you can afford to pay more tax on it. The same goes for yachts, recreational vehicles and second homes. Millionaires have plenty of money to help pay back the community they took it from.
Add a 5 cent gas tax: What, you say that gas is already too expensive? You are right, but all the profit is going to the oil companies. If it cost 5 cents more a gallon, it wouldn’t affect the price as much as the recent increases caused by the oil companies and it would encourage us to buy higher-mileage vehicles — which is a good thing. The proceeds would go to fund our educational system to at least at the national average.
Modify our sentencing laws: Judges used to have discretion in sentencing and they did just as good with it. Now we have mandatory minimums, numerous enhancements and three strikes laws. At $25,000 a year to keep a person in prison, we should look to see if that is how we really want to spend our money, especially when it relates to drug crimes. For example, if a guy is an addict and gets caught buying a lot of drugs then he can get sentenced to 10 years in prison. That costs us a quarter of a million dollars. I’d rather spend my money on more productive pursuits, especially when rehab programs cost half as much and actually could help reduce repeat offenders.
End the tax breaks for mining companies: Let’s level the playing field and tax mining like every other business, not let them have write-offs no other businesses get.
Cut the Nevada Highway Patrol: Every county has a sheriff’s department and every large city has a police department. The state is adequately covered with police protection. Cut the highway patrol in half and shift the money to education.
As you can see, there are a lot of options for our elected officials to consider in raising money for Nevada and to increase funding for our schools. But our governor is only willing to consider cuts. We need to be a lot smarter than that.
Jeff Blanck is an attorney in private practice in Reno. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.